We're All Doomed I Tell Ye...
As regular readers know, I have something of the Pollyanna about me. Mrs Cheery-Knickers, my good friend Sarah calls me. Mrs Large-Knickers-Made-of Steel might be more accurate. But hey ho.
And it's usually true. Faced with misfortune, I can be annoyingly upbeat.
But even I was faced with a challenge last night at my daughter's school play. If you've got kids and they've ever been in a play, you'll know they're usually good fun. First, you get to see your offspring outshining all others as second spear carrier on the left. Second, the sheer amusement of flapping sets and missed lines whispered by the prompting teacher always cheers the darkened soul. Or am I just a bit contrary?
But not last night.
Last night the sets were bloody perfect and not one, not one I tell ye, of the girls forgot their lines.
Left with all this professionalism, there was only the play to amuse us. And frankly Orpheus and Eurydice aint that amusing. Actually when my son played one of the heads of Cerberus in a Latin rendition of the greek tragedy (yes really!) it WAS quite funny, but last night we went fully legitimate and the performance as done by authentic greek chorus.
Sixty girls dressed from head to toe in black, speaking and moving as one. Have you heard sixty thirteen year old girls scream as one? It was like being at a One Direction concert.
Then there was the storyline. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but it's not exactly chick lit. Basically Orpheus gets married to a wood nymph, but even at their wedding their is a portent of doom. Or dooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom as the sixty girls shouted. At least sixty times.
Essentially, within minutes she dies. Cue sixty girls wailing.
Then Orpheus sets off to the Underowrld to get her back. This bit has a fair bit going for it, as our hero is faced with ever greater challenges, overcoming them with his talent.
You get the picture: sixty girls swaying as the river Styx, sixty girls growling as Cerberus. I tell you, three lads asking 'Quid est Orpheus? Woof woof,' has a hell of a lot more comedy value.
Anyhow, soon Orpheus is on his way home, with the potential of having his wood nymph back, but at the last moment he fucks up. Wail, wail, howl, howl.
On the way home we told my daughter it was a triumph and that, quite naturally, her screaming skills had been vastly superior to her best mates'. To be fair, she is good at screaming...but while I was nodding and smiling it occured to me that what the whole fandango lacked was any light and shade. High drama and tension is great, but it has to be offset by quiter more reflective moments.
This is how it works in the best stories no?
I'm all for putting your hero up a tree and throwing rocks at him, but in between each new rock, there has to be a period of contrast. This allows the reader to breathe. And when the next rock comes, it feels all the sharper.
As a crime writer, I'm all too guilty of putting too much stuff in my work. This happens, then that, then something else. Tension rises and stakes get higher and higher. Yet I must remind myself to provide my readers with those breathers. As last night's show reminded me, without them, it can all get a bit much.